ASU closed out the Pac-U weekend on Saturday with a banger of a match against the University of Arizona. The final score was 2-1, but closer than what coach Michael Ahn may have envisioned. He was on our stream last week talking about how the match “Will be fun for us at least, I don’t know about the other guys.”
“My team had an absurd amount of fun while playing ASU,” said Vincent “Yubami” Truong from the UA team, though he did mention that the first match was a bit rough.
“It’s like we knew only the first few steps in a dance but ASU in the first match showed us the complete ballet.”
Game 1 saw ASU dominate the rift from the get go where Hyun-woo “Baekho” Choe’s Nidalee was unstoppable. Game 2 saw UA make critical changes to their draft bringing out unconventional, yet effective picks like a Shyvana jungle and Katarina mid. These picks transformed UA into a scrappy team that would not take ASU’s aggression laying down. UA reached peak when “Ap shyavana got a quad but then our Katarina stole the penta. I quote our Katarina, ‘whoever stole the penta should be benched should be benched for next game,’” Yubami said.
Game 3 saw draft adaptations from ASU banning out the comfort picks that won Game 2, leading to another game where the two teams went blow for blow, but a few macro mistakes ultimately gave ASU the win.
“The 3rd game was kinda on the same train of thought like who would pick Rammus and Vayne? If we turned off the for fun switch in the 3rd game, we might have actually won,” said Yubami.
It was the last match of Pac-U’s first weekend of esports extravaganza. The latest league to hit the collegiate esports scene was announced a couple weeks ago, and came out swinging last weekend with exhibition Overwatch matches on Thursday, Rocket League on Friday and League of Legends on Saturday, all streamed and casted by a production team assembled from students around Pac-12 schools.
If Pac-U is a painting, Pac-12 was the muse. It’s trying to bring the regional sentiment of traditional sports over to esports to reap the rewards of relationships already in place, though It’s not the first time a university conference has joined the esports scene. We’ve already seen conferences like Big Sky, B1G and West Coast Conference create their own esports conglomerates.
University of Utah student Archie Smith casted the six Rocket League matches of the night alongside Sam Sutherland from Oregon State University. He’s an experienced caster, citing the benefit of established rivalries in decorating the commentary.
“The biggest difference between casting PAC-12-like esports and more common events is how much easier it is to build narratives,” he said.
The sentiment holds up well on Twitter where much of the Pac-U conversation happens, and university esports accounts were quick to meme (mostly Boulder).
The sentiment reigned true on Friday, with nail biter matches between CU Boulder and University of Utah, a battle of defensive wits and masterful precision that must have given Smith’s hands some serious cramps. “For years I’ve ignored the armrests on this chair but my fingers are locked on them right now,” he said during a stalemate right before Utah scored the goal that pushed the match to Game 5.
The low scoring streak continued, and Boulder scored a clean goal halfway through Game 5 and held on until the timer hit zero and the ball hit the floor.
Other Rocket League matches weren’t so close, and OSU, Washington State, and ASU all won their games 3-0 against Cal, Stanford and UA respectively. The USC vs. University of Washington match was closer, a 2-1 where USC started to come back after the first match. Anthony “xWordy” Duarte made several stellar defenses, while Alex “Hammertime” Hemmerlein and Jake “JKDriven” Kandell made two quick goals to put USC on the board.
But it wasn’t enough to overcome the dominance of Toby “Toby” Jay and Nicholas “wzrd” Wicklund on the side of UW, who scored goal after goal, along with displays of finesse from Akshay “vx94” Venkatasen.
It wasn’t the only close game of the weekend for USC. They played against Boulder in Overwatch on Thursday, a match that Quiana “Jaru” Dang thought showed some of the struggles of a USC team in the throes of scheduling conflicts. “We are better than how we looked yesterday,” she said on stream Friday after the match. “We were frazzled and panicking a lot due to the lack of practice.”
Regardless, the match was close. Map 1 saw USC take control over Lijang, but started to fall apart on King’s Row where Boulder began to look more coordinated with big defensive plays and key Reaper ults.
Havana was the tiebreaker, and in the overtime round Boulder pounced on a USC team gathered around the payload, launching an aggressive Mei Blizzard that vaporized the chances of USC scraping together a win.
The other match of the Thursday evening was a relatively one sided match between Utah against Berkeley. Utah’s squad is well established team at this point, with a notable performance at Harrisburg University’s HUE tournament where they made it to the semi-finals. Players like Austin “Coolabc” Walsh and Colby “Coblart” Smith were flashy, getting highlight reel kills and effectively nullifying any chance Berkeley had to get on the board.
Pac-U weekend 2 begins tomorrow with Overwatch where ASU will take on Boulder right after Oregon State’s match with UW. ASU has looked dominant so far, not losing a match across all Pac-U games.